CHARLOTTE -- Dozens of firefighters are speaking out in support of the Charlotte Fire Department, turning out for Monday night's City Council meeting, to respond to allegations made in a letter to City Manager Marcus Jones about a lack of diversity and inclusion in the department.
This letter was sent to the City Manager at the beginning of January, asking city officials to stop all promotions and hirings at the fire department until the hiring process can be investigated to make sure it is a fair and balanced system, giving minorities a fair chance for leadership.
A number of firefighters spoke to city council members, voicing their own opinions about the hiring process and the experiences they have had within the department.
Those who spoke noted opportunities they were given for higher education, training courses and even opportunities to help in Puerto Rico while working for the Charlotte Fire Department.
And while those who spoke did acknowledge some firefighters are concerned about the hiring process, they say that is only a small group, and does not represent the entire department.
"While you might have heard there are problems, and some people may have you think all these problems are significant, in my eyes, and in my experience, that could not be further from the truth. Like a big family, we all have different opinions. But that is what makes our department strong. Day in and day out we have firefighters from the bottom to the top who are doing their best to keep this department going,” said Fernando Rojas, a firefighter.
This controversy comes as the city manager is trying to hire a new fire chief.
Former chief Jon Hannan retired last year after complaints about hiring practices and low morale.
The group who signed a letter is asking for the next fire chief to be an external candidate.